Every athlete knows that they have a shelf life. When their time is up, they’re no longer glorified like they once were and perhaps, just perhaps, their ego’s get bruised. Darren Aronofsky’s manages to tell a great story of the wounded journey attempted at seeking redemption, undertaken by Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a washed up, has been of the professional wrestling circuit from the 80’s. There have many movies about boxing, because boxing has always been considered a proper sport, but none so far about wrestling and for this reason alone, “The Wrestler” is an apt title for this film.
This is the kind of story that Martin Scorcese used to tell. It is raw, violent, and gritty but the characters are all derived from the purest of human conditions. Mickey Rourke as Randy is someone who is clearly washed out but doesn’t live in regret. He wants to move on and thinks he can by fighting one last time in a rematch of an iconic bout from his past, but life catches up with him; he suffers a post-match stroke, undergoes a by-pass and tries to reconnect with a daughter who wants nothing to do with him. He tries to live life outside the ring; by taking up meager jobs at supermarkets and pleading for work where ever he can find it. In a fitting departure from his usual style of visual panache, Aranofsky’s directs the entire film, and those scenes of Randy walking through his life in particular, with a Dardenne brother’s style handheld, that is distracting at first, but soon serves its purpose. The way the camera follows him throughout the film is how we’ve seen Wrestler’s enter the ring – with their back towards us.
Mickey Rourke’s performance is an astonishing display of physicality. He is athletic, bulky, tanned and appropriately crude, but like a gentle giant, you can see something loveable about him, despite his many displays of recklessness and vile behaviour. He buys his estranged daughter two presents, the second as a backup in case the first is rejected (which it is), he reaches out for affection to an aging stripper, who like wrestlers, are stuck in a thankless “career” – all of these gestures being more tragic than they have any right to be because we can see that for Randy none of these acts of adjustment work. He is a functional construct of his public image and he can’t escape it. Knowing who Mickey Rourke the actor is and how his career as an actor turned out, the film becomes an even more pertinent parable of not just sports, but the career of showbiz professionals that never make it.
- by Faizan Rashid [Rated 4.5 out of 5]